The Climate & Sustainability Action (2017-2020) sets two long-term targets: achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 and attain a Platinum sustainability rating by 2030. These targets are meant to keep us on track to improve our sustainability performance and lower our greenhouse gas emissions well into the future.
Carbon neutrality is a process that is intended to achieve net zero greenhouse gases by two means: 1) eliminating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions wherever feasible, and 2) implementing a combination of carbon sequestration and carbon offsetting initiatives for the equivalent amount released. Therefore, the three considerations of carbon neutrality are, in order of priority: GHG reductions, carbon sequestration, and carbon offsets. In the Climate & Sustainability Action Plan, we focus first and foremost on reducing rather than offsetting carbon.
McGill, as a world-class research and teaching institution, is characterized by high energy intensity, a travelling population and a sizeable carbon footprint. In 2017, we emitted 56,004 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent). Between 1990 and 2015, we reduced our total emissions by 15%. Our Scope 2 (electricity, steam, and other district heating) and Scope 3 (air travel, commuting, and other indirect activities) emissions grew between 1990 and 2015 due to growth in McGill’s population and the acquisition of new space. Between 2015 and 2017, however, we achieved reductions in Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions. Thanks in large part to the ongoing implementation of McGill’s Energy Management Plans, our Scope 1 emissions – dominated by natural gas consumption for heating and cooling our buildings – have decreased consistently and were 29% lower in 2017 than in 1990. McGill’s annual greenhouse gas inventories provide historical and current information, and indicate how McGill’s emissions have evolved. You can read our 2017 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report for further detail.
McGill aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040, with an intermediate target of reducing GHG emissions by 58% by 2025 compared to 1990 levels. These targets will be reviewed every three years to take into account updated global decarbonization timelines, new technologies, and relevant legislation. In addition, the 2016 – 2021 phase of McGill’s Energy Management Plan includes a 64% GHG reduction target below 1990 by 2021 for building energy consumption. Stay tuned for the 2018 inventory!
Platinum Sustainability Rating
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) is a North American association of over 1000 colleges and universities working to create a sustainable future. AASHE oversees the Sustainability Tracking and Reporting System (STARS), a transparent, voluntary system for higher education institutions built by higher education institutions to understand their sustainability performance and the areas where they could improve.
McGill reported to STARS in 2016 and earned a Gold sustainability rating with a score of 72.63. Compared to peer universities who have reported to STARS, McGill’s sustainability strengths lie in curriculum and research, dining services, and purchasing.
McGill aims to attain a Platinum sustainability rating by 2030, with an intermediate target of reaching a score of 78 by 2020.